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The Information Literacy User’s Guide: An Open, Online Textbook

The Information Literacy User’s Guide: An Open, Online Textbook

Good researchers have a host of tools at their disposal that make navigating today’s complex information ecosystem much more manageable. Gaining the knowledge, abilities, and self-reflection necessary to be a good researcher helps not only in academic settings, but is invaluable in any career, and throughout one’s life. The Information Literacy User’s Guide...

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Darin Freeburg
Darin Freeburg (Faculty)
7 years ago


This is a high-quality text useful in teaching information literacy to undergraduates. The Seven Pillars Model generally matches the competency standards for information literacy developed by the ACRL.

After outlining what students should be able to understand and do, the text provides a scenario for each pillar. Each chapter also contains useful exercises that engage students in actually doing elements of the information literacy pillars. 

There are a number of good models that can be discussed and used in class, including models of Boolean Logic (p. 21-23), information source depth (p. 17), and citation formats (p. 56-58). There are also links to online quizzes for select chapters, and printable exercises.

This text is one of the more up-to-date of the information literacy texts available, and stresses the importance of a general awareness of new information coming out continuously. The text is full of links to important websites, although one could see the need for these links to be updated as they change. The text also explains the use of social media as an information format (p. 50), as well as the unique concerns of evaluating this type of information (p. 66). The text also includes up-to-date information on software for citation management (p. 84).

Select Chapter-Specific Observations

The chapter on gathering information includes an important element missing from most information literacy texts—sharing information. Although only one paragraph was devoted to this issue (p. 59), it can serve as a good discussion starter for what information sharing looks like in an educational environment that promotes individuality and isolation in the creation of information.

The chapter on evaluation of materials includes an important section on knowing when to stop, which identifies and helps instructors engage in conversations with students about the emotional stresses that accompany information literacy and tips for not becoming overwhelmed (p. 71-72).

The chapter on presentation is refreshing in how it treats students as co-creators of information--even in writing scholarly articles (p. 95)--which takes students from viewing information literacy as merely a means of accomplishing homework to a means of creating information that can be useful to others. This should engage students more in the issues of information literacies, as they see a larger and lasting benefit. 


1. Some of the sub-sections could be placed within other chapters, and different pillars are sometimes hard to differentiate. For instance, in visual literacy, the plan pillar mentions the need to know “where to look for various types of visual materials” (p. 106). However, it is not entirely clear how this is different from the scope pillar—“being aware of what information is available” (p. 105). They cover similar topics.

2. The scenarios are generally helpful; however, at times the scenario’s link to the pillar is confusing. For example, the gather scenario seems like it would be equally applicable to a plan scenario. It would be easier to understand if each scenario was more purposeful and direct in highlighting the specific elements that each pillar calls for.


Although there are some issues to be aware of, they are not significant enough to diminish my high recommendation for this text as the primary text for undergraduate instruction in information literacy. As an instructor of undergraduate information literacy, the comprehensiveness of the information literacy topics, the practical exercises and scenarios, the helpful models and worksheets, and the up-to-date nature of the text make it easy to recommend.

Time spent reviewing site: 10 hours